"Walking disorderly" (2Th 3)
"Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after
the tradition which he received of us... And if any man obey not our word by
this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be
ashamed" (2Th 3:6,14).
The argument for a "pure fellowship" achieved through broad
excommunication goes as follows: "It is part of Paul's word by this letter that
we 'withdraw' from any brother who 'walks disorderly'. If this withdrawal is not
enforced, then it is necessary to 'have no company' not only with the original
sinner, but also with all who disregard Paul's instruction."
This rather casually-constructed logic runs afoul of several
- 2Th 3:6 describes not false teachers, but those whose way of life is
contrary to the apostolic norm. The "disorderly" meant the idlers, or loafers,
who rapidly turned into "busybodies" (2Th 3:7,10,11). The word translated
"disorderly" ("idle" in NIV) here is also translated "unruly" in 1Th 5:14. It is
actually a military term for those "out of step" when marching, and thus
"insubordinate". This lack of discipline in the case of the Thessalonian
ecclesia was manifested in a refusal to work (vv 8,10,12), perhaps because of a
misguided belief that Christ's imminent return rendered labor
- It must not be supposed, because Christadelphians
conventionally use the milder "withdraw" instead of the more appropriate
"disfellowship" or "excommunicate", that the severing of fellowship ties is the
meaning of "withdraw" wherever it occurs. As a matter of fact, the word stello
(withdraw) signifies "to avoid", the idea being that the ways of the unruly are
to be shunned. The brethren themselves, however, are exhorted by Paul to work
(2Th 3:12); they have not been cast out of the meeting! He speaks to them
directly in terms which would seem highly inappropriate to evildoers no longer
worthy of fellowship at all. V 15 uses the word "admonish", a quite mild term.
The parallel passage (1Th 5:14) says that such disorderly brethren are to be
"warned", again a degree of discipline much less severe than
- 2Th 3:14: "Have no company with" merely means: 'Do not join
such brethren in their idle ways. By your aloofness you can express
dissatisfaction. And perhaps the busybodies will become ashamed (v 15) and begin
to reform themselves.'
We see, therefore, that 2Th 3 does deal with matters of
ecclesial order, but only as pertaining to local matters of personal conduct.
The terms of separation do not necessarily imply disfellowship. Even if
disfellowship were the final outcome of an unrepentant attitude, the basis of
that disfellowship would be improper conduct and not false doctrine. Finally,
there is no suggestion that ecclesias failing to act as severely as Paul
commands should themselves be disfellowshiped en masse by all other ecclesias.
Yet all use of this passage to justify "block disfellowship" or "guilt by
association" assumes that it clearly says this.